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Seth McFarlane’s Oscar Trifecta: Sexism, Racism, and Tastelessness, Oh My!

NWLC’s water-cooler talk this morning was completely dominated by one thing: the Oscars. Program Assistants Amy Tannenbaum and Becka Wall were particularly fired up by a few things – namely, the sexism, racism, and general objectification of women that was prevalent throughout and decided to hash it out via blog post, below:

Amy: Watching the Oscars last night was such a roller coaster. There were some great moments – but overall I felt like women lost, in more ways than one.

Becka: Agreed. First of all, with the exception of Best Supporting and Best Actress, there was a serious dearth of women nominated – a notable snub was that of Kathryn Bigelow for Zero Dark Thirty, an intense movie that captured not only the 12-year manhunt for Osama Bin Laden, but also the depth of human emotion that came with it.

Amy: Can we talk about the boob song, with Seth MacFarlane highlighting the times that actresses have appeared topless in film? It was like sexual harassment in front of an audience of millions. Charlize Theron and Naomi Watts looked disgusted and uncomfortable. Women in Hollywood are already judged too heavily on their looks. This song further moved emphasis away from what the Oscars is supposed to be about – celebrating talent and film – and turned it into a kind of sexual harassment. Plus, it wasn’t even funny!

Becka: I mean, let’s just take a look at the lyrics to “We Saw Your Boobs”:

“We saw your boobs in the movie – that's what we saw we saw your boobs. Meryl Streep, we saw them in "Silkwood" and Naomi Watts in "Mulholland Drive" and Angelina, we saw them in "Gia." Anne Hathaway, we saw them in "Brokeback Mountain." And Halle Berry in "Monster's Ball." Nicole Kidman in "Eyes Wide Shut" and Marisa Tomei but not Jennifer Lawrence's at all. We saw your boobs. We saw your boobs. Kristen Stewart, we saw them "On the Road" and we saw Charlize Theron's. Helen Hunt we saw them in "The Sessions." Scarlett Johansson we saw them on our phones. Jessica Chastain, we saw your boobs in "Lawless." Hilary Swank and Kate Winslet in "Heavenly Creatures" and "Hamlet" and "Titanic" and whatever you're in right now we saw your boobs. Ladies and gentlemen, the Gay Men's Chorus of Los Angeles. [enter Gay Men’s Chorus] We saw your boobs we saw your boobs, boobs. We saw your boobs, we saw your boobs.”

And, of course, then MacFarlane just had to emphasize to William Shatner that he was not part of the Gay Male Chorus – god forbid!

This could have been an interesting commentary about the fact that we’re more likely to see female nudity than male nudity because it’s deemed more acceptable by Hollywood, but instead it turned into an offensive laundry list of the number of times Seth MacFarlane was able to chortle to himself and say “Heh, boobies” about some of the most respected artists of our time.

And that was just the beginning of Seth’s put down of women. About Ben Affleck/Kim Kardashian:

“This man has gone from starring in "Gigli" to becoming one of the most respected filmmakers of this generation. I feel like we're six months away from having to call him le Benjamin Affleck. I thought we'd cut this joke but really, want to do it? First time I saw him with all that dark facial hair I thought, my god, the Kardashians have finally made the jump to film.”

And he also made a crack about Adele’s weight, saying that critic Rex Reed (the same charmer who called Melissa McCarthy a ‘female hippo’) would critique Adele’s performance of Skyfall, and – perhaps worst of all – he joked about women who conveniently “got the flu” (read: made themselves throw up) to make themselves fit into their gowns. Instead of focusing on actresses’ talent on the evening meant to showcase the greatest talents in the film industry, he focused on their appearance and completely ignored their talents.

Amy: What got my blood boiling the most was the ongoing commentary about Quvenzhané Wallis, who is definitely my favorite nine-year-old on the planet. Which is why it was totally gross and unacceptable to even joke about her dating George Clooney – she is nine! The Onion’s tweet calling her the c-word was the low point of the night for me. The Onion has since apologized, but it shouldn’t have happened in the first place. I can’t help but think it has to do with her race as well – I don’t recall Dakota Fanning or Abigail Breslin being sexualized and degraded in the same way. These jokes, combined with the reference to an orgy at Jack Nicholson’s house – the location of the Roman Polanski child-rape incident – really ruined the evening.

Becka: And so many reporters behaved in a flat-out rude way to Quvenzhané! One couldn’t be bothered to learn how to pronounce her name, so he said he was going to call her “Annie” since she’s slated to play Annie in a new movie version.

Amy: Right – and at least one Academy voter stated that he refused to vote for her because he couldn’t pronounce her name. It’s really not that hard, people – and you better learn how to say it now, because she’ll be here for a long time.

Becka: Let’s also take a second to mention the EXTREMELY offensive joke about domestic violence. MacFarlane said about Django Unchained, “Django is a movie where a woman is subjected to violence, or as we call it, a Chris Brown and Rihanna date movie.” Domestic violence is not a joke, and I seriously wish people would stop treating it like it was. One in four women has experienced domestic violence, and women account for 85% of victims of intimate partner violence. It’s one reason why Congress should reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act – to ensure the continuation of the Office on Violence Against Women and protect victims of domestic violence, dating violence, and sexual assault.

Amy: Eventually, though, I think we all just had to admit that Seth MacFarlane was not being funny OR interesting. There was simply no reason to joke about the lead character in Zero Dark Thirty being proof that women are headaches. It seemed especially crass in light of Bigelow’s lack of recognition from the academy.

Becka: Precisely. Like most of his jokes, it fell flat. Even MacFarlane could tell that the show felt unnecessarily long and started to appear small and sweaty by the end of the ceremony. I’m just so relieved that he didn’t feel the need to introduce Meryl Streep.

Amy: And what was with his bizarre comment about Latino actors’ understandability? I would love to hear Seth MacFarlane attempt Spanish (actually, no I wouldn’t). Salma Hayek, Penelope Cruz, and Javier Bardem are all fluent in English, so saying that he couldn’t understand them says more about him than anything.

Becka: Honestly, between his cracks about Latinos, blatant dehumanization of Quvenzahné, anti-Semitic jokes, and completely missing-the-mark cracks about slavery and race, I think it’s safe to say that at the very least, MacFarlane is pretty ignorant about where the line is with race and ethnicity—or he didn’t care that he crossed over it.

Amy: Even so, I was glad to hear Anne Hathaway’s comment about making stories like Fantine’s a thing of the past. And Quvenzhané is going to rock it in the new interpretation of Annie.

Becka: Agreed! And I’m glad Inocente, the documentary short about a homeless, undocumented immigrant teenage girl in San Diego who dreams of becoming an artist won best Documentary Short. Of course, I wish they hadn’t cut her mic off in the middle of the acceptance speech.

I’m all for trying to push buttons and boundaries, but there’s a way to do that without offending everyone. Seth MacFarlane just completely missed the mark.